Brent Ashworth

Whether it was a strange twist of fate or just plain luck, Brent Ashworth knows he is fortunate to be alive.

Police believe he was the intended target of Mark Hofmann's third bomb that exploded 20 years ago today. Instead, the bomb accidentally detonated in Hofmann's car, injuring him and ultimately leading to the famed forger's downfall.

About 100 people gathered Saturday for "The Hands of Hofmann, Motive for Murder" symposium to see and hear details of the criminal case that lasted 16 months and unraveled what experts call the biggest forgery in more than 1,200 years.

But multiple speakers also reminded the audience Hofmann's criminal legacy is not just about forgeries. It's also about the victims of Hofmann's other two pipe bombs — Steve Christensen and Kathy Sheets.

"Sometimes we tend to forget that he took two innocent lives and forever changed many, many people," said Curt Bench, Hofmann's former friend and the former head of Deseret Book's rare-book department. "There were lives that were terribly scarred. We must never forget that, that he is a master forger and a brilliant person in a lot of ways, but he's also a murderer."

Ashworth and Hofmann developed a close relationship over the years as Hofmann supplied just about any historical document Ashworth ever dreamed of, including a letter Joseph Smith supposedly penned while locked up in jail.

"Hofmann knew what I was after. My wife said it was greed on my part and Hofmann supplied what I wanted," Ashworth said.

Ashworth's obsession with the man who fooled experts and the hierarchy of the LDS Church alike continues today. He is constantly adding to his collection of Hofmann forgeries, he said.

A solemn reminder of the bomb that could have killed him is one of many prized forgeries Ashworth keeps in his vast collection. Police found the 19th-century photograph of a print of the Nauvoo Temple in the trunk of Hofmann's car.

"It's a survivor of Mark Hofmann's third bomb, the one I may have missed," Ashworth said. "It's a constant reminder to me that life is precious."

Hofmann, who has never granted an interview to explain his actions, will be in the Utah State Prison in Draper for the rest of his natural life.


E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com